Urocortin III, A Brain Neuropeptide of the Corticotropin-Releasing Hormone Family: Modulation by Stress and Attenuation of Some Anxiety-Like Behaviours

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Following its discovery 20 years ago, corticotropin-releasing hormone (CRH) has been postulated to mediate both hormonal and behavioural responses to stressors. Here, we characterize and describe a behavioural role for the murine gene, UcnIII, which encodes a recently discovered CRH-related neuropeptide, urocortin III. We found that mouse UcnIII is expressed predominantly in regions of the brain known to be involved in stress-related behaviours, and its expression in the hypothalamus increases following restraint. In addition, we found that intracerebroventricular administration of mUcnIII stimulates behaviours that are associated with reduced anxiety, including exploration of an open field and decreased latency to enter the lit compartment of a dark-light chamber, but has no effect on the elevated-plus maze. Finally, we found that mUcnIII does not exert any effects on the hormonal stress response. Based upon our findings, UcnIII may be an endogenous brain neuropeptide that is modulated by stress and stimulates behaviours associated with reduced anxiety. In this capacity, UcnIII may attenuate stress-related behaviours, which may be useful both to help cope with stressful situations as well as to avoid pathology associated with excessive reaction to stressors.

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